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Colorado Wildfires: Guidance for Residents Returning Home

Kids playing with Red Cross therapy dog
Disasters can stir up many different feelings and thoughts. Be sure to check in with family members, especially children, after experiencing a disaster. -Marlene Husson, Disaster Mental Health Volunteer

The American Red Cross is offering guidance, clean-up supplies and emotional support for evacuees of the Black Forest Fire as they return to their neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross continues to operate a shelter for residents who remain evacuated due to the wildfire. Last night, 27 evacuated individuals stayed overnight at the Red Cross shelter at Palmer Ridge High School.

Red Cross mental health specialists, caseworkers and other volunteers will staff three fixed-location stations:

• Multi-agency Disaster Assistance Center, El Paso County Public Health, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Rd. , Colorado Springs, 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. -- Residents can access safety guidance about returning to their homes, recovery information and resources, comfort kits, grief counseling, and more.

• Baptist Rd. and Hwy 83, noon-6 p.m.

• Woodmen Rd. and Black Forest Rd., noon-6 p.m.

“Your own and your family’s emotional care and recovery are just as important as rebuilding a home and healing physical injuries,” said Marlene Husson, a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer. “Disasters can stir up many different feelings and thoughts. Be sure to check in with family members, especially children, after experiencing a disaster.”

There are some basic steps you can take to meet physical and emotional needs:

• Try to return to as many of your personal and family routines as possible

• Get rest and drink plenty of water

• Recognize your own feelings

• Reach out and accept help from others

• Realize that recovery can take time

The Red Cross also recommends some of these safety tips for residents returning to burn areas:

• Do not enter your home until fire officials say it is safe

• Ensure your food and water are safe; discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot, or that that has been in a refrigerator that has lost power

• Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires

• Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety

• Wear leather gloves and heavy-soled shoes to protect hands and feet

Red Cross volunteers from around the country have landed in Colorado to assist with logistical support, and distribution of meals and relief supplies, as well as disaster health and mental health services – all in an effort to assist residents as they return to their neighborhoods and start the initial steps of recovering from this disaster.

Due to the large loss of property – following on the heels of last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire – health and mental health support is a priority; the Red Cross has received more than 1,000 volunteer applications since the Black Forest Fire began, and will be holding several trainings this week to on-board new, licensed health and mental health workers who have applied to volunteer with the Red Cross.

Other recovery resources are available online:

Taking Care of Your Emotional Health After a Disaster

Red Cross Guide to Recovery

Helping Children Cope With Disaster

RED CROSS SERVICES

To date, the Red Cross and partner agencies have provided the following services::

• Opened and operated a total of eight separate shelters and evacuation centers in Monument, Colorado Springs, Kiowa, Cañon City, Walsenburg and Rifle

• Distributed 858 comfort kits containing hygiene items, toothbrushes and other basic essentials

• Registered 399 individuals in Safe and Well

• Served 4,084 meals and snacks (provided primarily by The Salvation Army)

• Made 252 health and mental health contacts with affected residents

• Distributed 163 Jumpstart To Recovery Kits

HOW TO HELP: If you would like to support Red Cross Disaster Relief go to redcross.org/Colorado, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation via your cell phone bill.

Note: Donations made via text-to-give will be allocated to support Red Cross 2013 Colorado Wildfires Response.

IN-KIND DONATIONS: The Red Cross is unable to accept small, individual donations or collections of items such as clothing, food or cleaning supplies. The cost to sort, package and distribute these types of donations to disaster victims is almost always greater than the cost of purchasing the items locally, and it is logistically impossible to distribute a wide variety of individual items in a meaningful way.

VOLUNTEERING: The Red Cross relies on a workforce of trained volunteers to provide emergency assistance. We currently have enough volunteer staff to meet our operational needs and have received more than 1,000 applications from new volunteers. If you would like to apply to volunteer with the Red Cross, visit http://www.redcross.org/co/denver/volunteer and fill out an application; please be patient, as current volume of applicants is extremely high.

Individuals interested in other volunteer opportunities can also visit www.helpcoloradonow.org to browse other opportunities.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.